ICC backs down on Saif Gadhafi trial demand

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo gives a press conference in Tripoli on November 23, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Moreno-Ocampo says it's a matter of national pride for Libya to try Gadhafi's son
  • Libya's outgoing justice minister says the country has an independent judiciary
  • Libya has the right to try Moammar Gadhafi's son itself, the ICC prosecutor says
  • The International Criminal Court wanted Saif al-Islam Gadhafi sent to The Hague

Libya could try Saif al-Islam Gadhafi itself rather than handing him over to International Criminal Court if Libya can prove it has a functioning justice system, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Wednesday.

The statement in Tripoli marks a reversal for the International Criminal Court, which initially said Moammar Gadhafi's son should be tried in The Hague.

But Moreno-Ocampo said Wednesday that Libya had the "right" to try him if it could do so.

"They are proud, they say to me that for them it's a matter of national pride to show that Libyans can do the case," he told CNN in an interview later Wednesday. "They will show they are able to prosecute Saif (al-Islam Gadhafi), who they believe is today the face of the old regime."

"The only condition is they have to present their position to the International Criminal Court judges and the judges will decide" if the case can be prosecuted in Tripoli, he added.

The most important thing was that Gadhafi not be "shielded from justice," he said.

"The rebellion in Libya started as a fight for justice, so they want to show they can do justice in the Saif case," the ICC prosecutor said.

Libya will present evidence to ICC judges that the country can hold the trial, and the judges will decide if they are satisfied, Moreno-Ocampo explained.

Libya's outgoing Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagy, who appeared with the international prosecutor in a news briefing in Tripoli, said Libya's judiciary was independent.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, once thought to be his father's heir apparent, was captured by Libya's new authorities over the weekend.

The International Criminal Court indicted him and his father on charges of crimes against humanity earlier this year.

There were reports Sunday that the third man the court charged, Gadhafi intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, had also been captured, but al-Alagy said Wednesday he could neither confirm nor deny the reports.

No pictures of Senussi in captivity have been released, while the National Transitional Council has released images of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi in custody.

Moreno-Ocampo said sources have told the ICC that Senussi has not yet been arrested, but that people know where he is and will try to arrest him soon.

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